From Socialist Voice, February 2011

Political shenanigans in Donegal South-West

As the Donegal South-West constituency reels from one economic woe to another, the independent candidate Thomas Pringle is clearly ruffling a few feathers of the historically established political elite at the hustings.
     Pringle’s excellent showing at the by-election in November last raised a number of eyebrows, and with Fianna Fáil arrogantly running two candidates in this three-seat constituency there was a clear potential for Pringle to tear up the long-prepared script and snatch the third seat, when the other two Dáil places would go along predicted lines to Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin and Dinny McGinley of Fine Gael.
     When the Gallagher-Aryzta bakery announced the loss of 124 jobs in Ardara, the only politician on the ground at the moment the announcement was made to the workers was Pringle. This didn’t go unnoticed among the workers, who have since met Pringle to discuss their options and how best to pursue them.
     Hard on the heels of this unwelcome announcement, a number of other local employments have since ground to a halt—Green House Bar and Grocers in Ardara and Bay View Hotel in Killybegs—totalling a further forty-five jobs. Again the man at the scene offering advice and assistance was Thomas Pringle.
     As previously reported in Socialist Voice, Pringle has no party-political machinery to aid his electoral attempts. His record for the fishing and farming communities, both locally and nationally, is well documented and regarded. Because of this high local regard and respect he has been courted by a number of political parties, most recently the Labour Party, to run as their candidate in the local and national elections. But he remains an independent voice for the Donegal South-West electorate; and just as he appears to be developing a real connection with that electorate, where he has a real chance to prosecute that independent voice in the 31st Dáil, the door appears to be slamming shut.
     On Friday 4 February a large crowd of local people gathered in the Nesbitt Arms Hotel in Ardara to listen to a number of tired old and would-be new politicians profess their shock and concern at the recent economic developments, the most notable being Dinny McGinley and Pat “the Cope” Gallagher.
     There was a clear frustration at the meeting, which on occasion manifested itself in outright anger, but it was what developed afterwards that really has the tongues wagging and the ears burning.
     The meeting was chaired by a local community activist, Stephen McCahill, chairperson of the Ardara Traders’ Association, who represented the local population on a recent RTE “Frontline” programme (Monday 31 January). On Monday 7 February, to huge fanfare, McCahill announced to a well-attended audience and clear support base in the same hotel that he would be running in the election.
     Given the large and strong electoral base that is the Ardara, Glenties and Killybegs area, this will obviously present Pringle with many problems, as he and his comrades had done incredible and sterling work not only in raising his profile but ensuring that he would attract the large number of disaffected Fianna Fáil voters represented in the Glenties electoral area.
     With McCahill—whose politics are well known, and pretty obvious, given many of those who were represented at his announcement meeting—now in the fray, the bets are that Pringle will lose out to the incumbent, “Mary of the Gaffs” Coughlan, despite the fact that Fianna Fáil will split their vote as a consequence of running two candidates.
     McCahill’s background and motives should not be ignored. He has no chance of getting elected. He has never stood for election before now. On the Friday before he announced his intention he was rubbing shoulders with a party establishment to which he historically pandered electorally.
     It is obvious to this observer that Pringle was doing enough to scare and to rouse the gombeen party politicos to do what they do so well: squeeze the opposition!
     Time will tell.

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